Shaftsbury approves town budget

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SHAFTSBURY — Residents on Monday night approved the town's FY19 operating budget of $1,901,050, and voted in favor of a motion from the floor to raise the annual compensation for serving on the Select Board from $500 to $650.

Moderator Tom Dailey called for a moment of silence for Shelby Coon, the 22-year-old Shaftsbury firefighter who died in a car crash in Pownal on Sunday. The flag for the Pledge of Allegiance was presented by members of the Girl Scouts.

The FY19 budget was approved on the floor. Select Board chairman Tim Scoggins said that municipal spending has remained mostly flat for the past four years. One amendment to the budget was made on the floor, when former board member Karen Mellinger proposed that the Select Board compensation be changed from $500 to $650. The proposal received a second and was approved. Including this change, the town's operating budget for the next fiscal year will be $1,901,050. This does not include the roughly $75,000 in community appropriations that will be voted on on Tuesday.

Town clerk candidate Holly Bahan brought up concerns about the town clerk receiving benefits, such as health insurance, while not being an employee of the town, which lead to a lengthy discussion. Eventually, the motion was made to call the question of the budget and end the debate.

During the school portion of the meeting, board chairman Ed Molloy said that the ventilation upgrade in the old wing of the school is largely complete, and the asbestos that was discovered during that project has been successfully removed. Ventilation improvements in the rest of the building will take place over the next year if voters approve the funding on Tuesday. He also thanked board member Fran Kinney, who is not running for re-election, for his years of service to the schools.

The floor meeting was recorded by Catamount Access Television, but was not broadcast live, due to a failure in the school's wireless internet system.

At the polls on Tuesday, Scoggins will be defending his seat on the Select Board against Ed Corey. Bahan is running dual campaigns against the town's incumbent treasurer, Melanie Dexter, and town clerk, Marlene Hall. Voters will also be asked to decide on a number of community appropriations requests, whether or not to adopt a non-binding renewable energy pledge as advocated by 350 Vermont, and to decide whether or not the Taconic Community Grange should receive tax-exempt status.

On the school ballots there are no contested races. Molloy and Tony D'Onofrio are running for two seats.on the Shaftsbury School Board, with D'Onofrio running for the seat currently held by Kinney; Amy Dobson of Bennington, Nelson Brownell of Pownal, David Durfee of Shaftsbury, and Ron Higgins of Woodford are running for four seats on the Mount Anthony Union Board; and Robert Bahny, Joe Gauthier, Jackie Kelly, and Ed Letourneau are running for four seats on the Southwest Vermont Regional Technical School District Board, which governs the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center.

The Shaftsbury School Board is asking voters to approve a budget of $3,503,493 for the next fiscal year, which would represent a decrease of 4.8 percent in spending per equalized pupil. The board is asking voters to approve an additional $117,000 to be deposited into a Building Major Repairs/Renovations Reserve Fund. This money would be used for continuing improvement's to the school's ventilation system, after tests in 2016 showed elevated carbon dioxide levels in the building. If this is approved, total per equalized pupil spending would still be 1.42 percent lower than the current year.

Voters will also consider the Mount Anthony Union budget of $23,729,76. This number represents a decrease of 2.45 percent decrease in spending per equalized pupil. The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union's financial office has estimated that, combined between the two districts, Shaftsbury's taxpayers will see an increase of less than a cent per $100 in appraised property value. This number is only a projection, however, and will depend on the state property yield adjustment, which will be set by the legislature later this year.

You can view a copy of the ballots online at shaftsburyvt.gov. Polls are open at the Shaftsbury Fire Department from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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